The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
A Novel

66%

25 Critic Reviews

A skilled but lackluster novel that dutifully ticks off the boxes of family strife, infidelity and ripped-from-the-headlines issues.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes Elizabeth Strout’s never-before-published essay about the origins of The Burgess Boys

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • NPR • Good Housekeeping

Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Strout’s “magnificent gift for humanizing characters.” Now the acclaimed author returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature.
 
Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.
 
With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with readers long after they turn the final page. Tender, tough-minded, loving, and deeply illuminating about the ties that bind us to family and home, The Burgess Boys is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

“What truly makes Strout exceptional . . . is the perfect balance she achieves between the tides of story and depths of feeling.”—Chicago Tribune

“Strout’s prose propels the story forward with moments of startlingly poetic clarity.”—The New Yorker
 
“Elizabeth Strout’s first two books, Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle, were highly thought of, and her third, Olive Kitteridge, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. But The Burgess Boys, her most recent novel, is her best yet.”—The Boston Globe
 
“A portrait of an American community in turmoil that’s as ambitious as Philip Roth’s American Pastoral but more intimate in tone.”—Time
 
“[Strout’s] extraordinary narrative gifts are evident again. . . . At times [The Burgess Boys is] almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and . . . startling riffs of gripping emotion.”—Associated Press
 
“[Strout] is at her masterful best when conjuring the two Burgess boys. . . . Scenes between them ring so true.”—San Francisco Chronicle


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Elizabeth Strout

See more books from this Author
Elizabeth Strout is the author of Abide with Me, a national bestseller and Book Sense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. She is on the faculty of the MFA program at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lives in New York City.
 
Published March 26, 2013 by Random House. 337 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Apr 14 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Burgess Boys
All: 25 | Positive: 16 | Negative: 9

Kirkus

Above average
on Mar 03 2013

A skilled but lackluster novel that dutifully ticks off the boxes of family strife, infidelity and ripped-from-the-headlines issues.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Dec 28 2016

Strout excels in constructing an intricate web of circuitous family drama, which makes for a powerful story, but the familiarity of the novel’s questions and a miraculously disentangled denouement drain the story of depth.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by SYLVIA BROWNRIGG on Apr 26 2013

Strout handles her storytelling with grace, intelligence and low-key humor, demonstrating a great ear for the many registers in which people speak to their loved ones.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Mar 27 2013

For all its potential and Ms. Strout’s proven skill, “The Burgess Boys” asks too many questions and offers too few interesting answers.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Sophia Martelli on Jul 20 2013

...The Burgess Boys combines complex characters, finely wrought prose and a well-turned plot in a novel that is compassionate, gentle and intelligent.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Shena Mackay on Jul 12 2013

In the end, though, this is not a story of good versus evil but a complex and bold examination of political and family relationships, of the long-term effect of guilt and lies, of people's motives and failures and muddled intentions.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Sophia Martelli on Jul 20 2013

...The Burgess Boys combines complex characters, finely wrought prose and a well-turned plot in a novel that is compassionate, gentle and intelligent.

Read Full Review of The Burgess Boys: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Shena Mackay on Jul 12 2013

...this is not a story of good versus evil but a complex and bold examination of political and family relationships, of the long-term effect of guilt and lies...

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Apr 01 2013

The Burgess Boys can be overly sentimental sometimes and too contrived...

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Lizzie Skurnick on Mar 29 2013

Her deft touch comes through in more subtle betrayals: a glazed response from a supposed friend, the quiet manipulations of an ex-wife.

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Washington Times

Good
Reviewed by Corinna Lothar on Aug 23 2013

...the reader is quickly mesmerized by Miss Strout’s rich exposition of what seems a simple story but is, in fact, a poignant look at family relationships and secrets, guilt, sibling rivalry, marriage, political correctness and the burdens of immigration imposed on both immigrants and locals.

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Toronto Star

Above average
Reviewed by Emily Donaldson on Jun 14 2013

As a family drama, this one has its satisfactions: comeuppances are gotten; imbalances are balanced. It can be a motivating read. Yet Strout tips her hand a little too much...

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AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Noah Cruickshank on Apr 29 2013

Boys manages to make small happenings big without blowing them out of proportion, a noble feat too few books even attempt.

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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by Alana Semuels on Apr 05 2013

But in "The Burgess Boys," as she writes of Jim and Bob, Somalians and Mainers, law firms and marriages, Strout isn't able to pull the disparate pieces together. Somehow, in writing a novel, Strout has lost the story.

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The Maine Edge

Excellent
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Mar 27 2013

This unpretentious epic is packed with humor and hubris, elevating the ordinary and shining a light into the roiling emotions typically contained beneath the still, staid surface of small town life.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Jocelyn McClurg on Mar 25 2013

Boys never comes close to Olive-like perfection. But there are more than enough flashes of ironic humor and magnanimous compassion to remind you how good Strout can be.

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PopMatters

Below average
Reviewed by DAN BARRETT on Feb 27 2013

...Strout’s new novel isn’t bad, but it’s unworthy of a Pulitzer winner. Strout must slow down and approach her work with new seriousness. She is capable of far more.

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The Big Story

Good
Reviewed by KENDAL WEAVER on Mar 25 2013

Strout's writing style is all her own, at times almost effortlessly fluid, with superbly rendered dialogue, sudden and unexpected bolts of humor and, just as a scene seems to be low-key, carried away by startling riffs of gripping emotion.

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The Missoulian

Below average
Reviewed by Alana Semuels on Apr 14 2013

...Strout isn’t able to pull the disparate pieces together. Somehow, in writing a novel, Strout has lost the story.

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Bibliophile By the Sea

Above average
Reviewed by (Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea on Jul 09 2013

The Burgess Boys is definitely a character driven novel. Readers who enjoy stories about family dysfunction, past and present should enjoy this well written novel.

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Lit and Life

Good
Reviewed by Lisa on Jun 26 2013

It was five years between Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteredge and The Burgess Boys. It was worth the wait. I only hope it doesn't take five years for Strout to write her next novel!

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Mysteries and More from Saskatchean

Below average
Reviewed by Bill Selnes on Aug 10 2014

It was an interesting book but it did not read easily. All of the major characters have dreary lives and far more problems than joy.

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Izzy Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Izzy on Jun 09 2013

As a middle-aged reader with siblings, I found The Burgess Boys particularly interesting for its treatment of family relationships. Overall, it is a well-written and satisfying novel that should have wide appeal.

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Utah Mom's Life

Good
Reviewed by Cindi on Mar 25 2013

The novel moves slowly at times and is surely not for those seeking action and constant excitement. Yet, the characters are so carefully crafted...Compelling, yet superbly simple, The Burgess Boys is a brilliant character-driven novel.

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thevoiceofoma

Above average
Reviewed by omasvoice on May 22 2013

Liberals are presented as kind, caring, and righteous, while those on the right are presented as angry, mean, bigoted troublemakers, with destructive intentions. This book’s message will surely please the Progressives and perhaps upset the Conservatives.

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Reader Rating for The Burgess Boys
71%

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Patrick Priore 4 May 2013

Truly disappointing. I loved "Olive Kitteridge", but this is meandering, plot-less, and frankly, very uninteresting.

Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

Added the book to custom list '2013 NPR'

Terri McGinty

Terri McGinty 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

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